Interview: Marc Heal

“It’s funny, having worked so hard to make a living out of music I found once I’d got there that I’d broken myself in the process. I needed a break to do some, uh, emotional housekeeping.”

Interview: Bestial Mouths

“The newer material is very personal in nature as it directly relates to the experiences and emotions I had been going through and feeling. Those experiences set the direction for the album title and cover art.”

Review: Cease2xist – 'Zero Future'

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Review: David Bowie – 'No Plan'

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Thursday, 25 August 2016

THE DARKNESS ON THE EDGE OF 'THINGS'



One of the rarer televisional treats that this writer has seen for many a year has been 'Stranger Things', the latest slice of dynamite to be released from the Netflix hit factory. In fact some people are already talking about it as one of the finest TV series of all time. So what is it about 'Stranger Things' that is so addictive and alluring? Well, if you have seen it all (and if not, go and do so now!) then join for in-depth discussion in the 'upside-down'...

The first thing to say about 'Stranger Things' is that as a pastiche of the '80s supernatural/horror gamut it is note perfect, combining elements from 'E.T', 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind', 'Silver Bullet', 'Stand By Me', 'IT' and many more (in fact Stephen King even gets a name-check). So the key parts of the genre are here reassembled into a lovingly constituted whole, reminding and reinventing the previous examples of the genre. It also has to be said that as a serialised horror story it works much better than, say, 'The Stand' did and is probably up there with the aforementioned 'IT'.

Another factor is that the '80s rarely sounded or looked better than this; lovingly recreating the feel of the time with note-perfect costumes and props and a magnificent synthwave soundtrack it has a production value that could only be achieved with genuine love. Even if the story didn't come up scratch it would still be an audio-visual feast.

But what really makes 'Stranger Things' so compelling is that whilst older viewers are drawn into their childhood the characters in it are losing theirs. Essentially the show is about the slow creeping darkness of adolescence, with unknown horrors lurking to disturb an innocent D&D game or a typical family dinner. The 'upside-down' is a non-too-subtle metaphor for the lives of the characters being turned upside-down (literally, in some cases); there's Eleven, her life scarred by abandonment, abuse and neglect; there's Will Byers, harrowed and changed by fear; Natalia and Finn both struggling to come to terms with the complications of conformity and the struggle to be yourself, as well as both Joyce and Hopper struggling with their separate guilt of failing to protect their children. In the last scene Will actually reminds the viewer of Frodo, back in the Shire from his travels – victorious, but tainted, diminished and haunted.

In this way the dark thrills of the show are a reminder of the dark thrills we experienced as children – the stories of local criminals or monsters under the bed, the awkwardness of our first relationships, or the peek from a high branch over the brooding barbed wire fence of a nearby power-station or government building, or even of watching a horror TV show, exactly like 'Stranger Things', so many years previously.

So the next time you see a distant, non-specific military site or a foreboding wood try and recall those old feelings that for most of us defined our adolescence – those of wonder, and dread. And re-watch 'Stranger Things' again, as soon as possible.

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Wednesday, 24 August 2016

To Care & Not To Care - Insight on The Creative Process



This month, I've been celebrating my first year as a contributor to Intravenous Magazine.
Writing for this online zine delights me.
It forces me to reinvent myself every month, and takes me out of my writing comfort zone.
I write lyrics, first and foremost, and then I also write stories.
Eventually I got my own website, and my own blog, and eventually I stopped caring about certain things I'd write in my journal being too personal to be shared with the world. They were things I cared about, and it mattered more to me to share what I had to say, than feel uneasy about people`s reactions.

As I'll be developing further on in this text, people's reactions is not something one can control, as a creator, and should therefore be taken with a grain of sea salt. You release a creation out for the world to see/feel/read/experience, and there's a part of you that waits, anxiously, for people to express their reactions (or not). You'll actively listen to every word uttered about your creation, and watch people's body language in response to it. And then there's also this part of you that ultimately Does Not Care. This is the part of you wherein lies your pride in your accomplishment, and the reason why you started to create in the first place. This part of you will make you rise regardless of what people may or may not say about your creation, and the part of you that will make you Keep Creating, whether it's the next day, or the next month, or 10 years later.

After a few releases on my personal blog, I realised most people who follow me rather enjoy my writing. They send me private messages about their reaction, or they share my post with the people they know.
It makes me happy to write, and even happier to connect with other people through my words.

And so, last year, someone who's known me for quite some time now eventually convinced me that writing, another avenue than music, is something I should consider more seriously as an eventual career. So I figured I'd pitch out to a bunch of online magazines, and the most positive response I got back was from Intravenous Magazine. The fabulous editor told me he thoroughly enjoyed my writing, and suggested I would write editorials for his zine.

That was a year ago.
I do plan to reach out to more online magazines. Also, a dear friend of mine, together with her wonderful husband, have convinced me to write a book. I'll get to all these projects eventually, but right now, in between everything else in life, and a day job, and my monthly contributions to the site you're reading this from, I'm producing my second album.

Writing for Intravenous Magazine, as mentioned above, requires of me to get inspired every month to write a decent enough amount of words about Something (Anything) related to culture. As a lyricist and a storyteller, to write editorials requires me to draw inspiration from another part of the real world than the one I'm used to. It's mostly a growth experience, and allows me to explore my own perspective and opinion on matters I wouldn't necessarily have otherwise paid much attention to, but truth be told, there are times when I'm more inspired than others. For example, my November 2015 post entitled To Be Goth was written in response to an event that had happened a few days before. Sometimes, a writer gets gifts from Life like those -material presented on a silver platter.

And then there are times, like this month, when no matter how much I tried fishing out to any/all matters of culture, or subculture, I just couldn't hook anything up.
Original Game, my second album, has been taking my entire time and energy and focus, and maybe my head's just too deep in it, and I can't think of anything else.

So I'll share what I've been going through with this project over the past few weeks, which I know is something all creators eventually go through, at the border between the end of front line creation and the beginning of official execution.
The point in time where you're making executive decisions about the direction of your creation, and where you know that the people you're working with or for might actually get angry if you back up and change your mind again.
I'm sure this will touch all of you artists reading this -whether you're visual artists, or writers, or musicians, or film directors, or even jewellers. And for those of you who aren't, well, here's some insight into a very specific part of what is called The Creative Process.
I figured this was still about culture. If anything, it's about the culture within the culture. Or perhaps the culture of the culture within the culture.

As stated above, we creators proceed with our endeavours with the purpose to share them with the world. As we proceed, we first and foremost do so hoping that people will understand what we have created (and why) and secondly, that they will enjoy it.

We approach the release with the dichotomy of the two aforementioned perspectives: that we Deeply Care from the bottom of our hearts and yet also that in the end we do not care about other people's reactions that much, for in the end to each his own life, and one might as well do whatever one wants to do with it. I write We here, but I should really write I, for I do speak of my own personal experience of the past few weeks, but then again I know not to be the only creator with this mindset.

We dread a negative feedback. We dread not being good enough. I dread, above all else, Failure. But the facts remain that taste, in all things, from music to fashion to people to food, is extremely arbitrary. You will ask someone on  a particular day whether they like a certain thing, a their response will be levelled on a series of various circumstances: how they feel that day and why, what happened in the hour prior to your question, whether they've recently eaten or not, their degree of fatigue, and so forth.

As it is, everyone is passionate about something -at least one thing. For example, if you've experienced over the past few months or years a very bad episode of food poisoning, it's likely that no matter what the circumstances of your emotion at the moment of inquiry, you will say a firm enough "No" to the question "Do you like [insert particular food name here].

People do have somewhat defined tastes. But when it comes to releasing a product or a work of art, or a certain meal or dessert or cocktail, to a certain level, the only taste you can trust is your own. If you like and are proud of the product you are releasing, then people's opinion is somewhat irrelevant.

Somewhat.

Of course, when we create something and release it out into the world, we want as many people as possible to embrace it. But you can't please everyone, or force people to like something. Yes, publicity has its way of tricking you into believing that you're supposed to buy X product and that it'll make you happier, so of course you should get it and of course you're gonna like it. That's when an adequate sense of judgement and parsimony should come into play.

The fact remains that you can't please everyone, and the criteria on which you can gague your own level of pleasing are very fickle indeed. It is best, therefore, to settle on your own level of enjoyment, and then to trust one to maybe 4 or 5 other opinions -opinions you can trust that are given for your benefit, and from people you actually respect.
Remember, though, that the more opinions you get, the wider your perspective will spread, which, when it comes to exposing a creation to the world, is not necessarily good.
For example, if you're like me, that one negative comment will make you question everything you've just done, along with the purpose of your existence. It will also make you obsess over your project even more, and have you revisit every single detail and figure out a thousand ways of making it better, or so you'd think.

You'll deconstruct and reconstruct, and in a moment of clarity, you'll stop and say Waddam I doing.
Or you'll say OMG yes.

In all, make what you will of criticism, especially in the context of the production of a creation, but remember that in the end, if you're pleased with your work and you know it in your heart and your gut that you've created something positive that will bring about some form of evolution to humanity, in some way, as well as for yourself, of course, then that's the only opinion that truly matters.

We are what we create, after all.
And you
can't
ever
please
everyone.





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Monday, 8 August 2016

Review: In Letter Form – 'Fracture, Repair, Repeat'



IN LETTER FORM
'Fracture, Repair, Repeat'
METROPOLIS RECORDS


The term "Goth" was invented by the press, there I've admitted it.

By the time punk had made it's way into the mainstream it had died on it's arse. In it's place was Post-Punk. Groups like PIL, Joy Division & Gang of Four gave soul to an otherwise blunt genre. In three more years however, the sound had yet again evolved into a different beast. Pete Murphy's word for fans of his band Bauhaus were "Wildebeest" due to the hairstyles, but soon the title "Goth" was coined. With moody vibes and lashings of dub, psycho-billy and remorseful poetry, goth was a flash in the pan, but has now become synonymous with the decade.
Then ten years ago chart music saw a revival of 80's nostalgia, with acts like The Horrors and A Place To Bury Strangers flying the somewhat goth flag, but even they moved on into their own sound and styles.
Okay, enough of the history lesson, you came here to read a review, not an essay!
In Letter Form have been creeping around the shadows for a few years now. Their debut 'Explorations Of Unknown Destinations' was a self released triumph and they were quickly snapped up by Metropolis records for their second release 'Fracture, Repair, Repeat'.
The 7" single 'Wait Now' was a sure-fire hit, keeping in tune to the post punk style without getting too silly. The album itself is a stuff of majesty and has the one thing most goth albums fail on obtaining these days; great production. The vocals tend to take a back seat, leaving the instruments in the foreground, giving it a hollow sound while somehow still managing to keep busy and beautiful. As they echo through the halls,  you get so lost in the album's forest and you'll have gone through half of it without realising!
Stand out tracks include the mystifying 'Face in the Crowd', the skin crawling 'Terror (is a state of mind)' and the upbeat 'High Line'. Above all though is the instant classic 'Reflecting the Rain', a song so amazingly good I actually had to look it up to check it wasn't a cover (lets face it, who doesn't like a goth tune about rain?!)
The album's only struggle is it's identity. Sometimes it leans towards the post-punk side, and on others it will head towards the goth spectrum, but with both to hand it gives the band a lot to work with. It is very clear that they are well versed in both genres and have done a great service to revive it with grace and humility.
If you are (or ever were) a fan of the 80's alternative movement, this is certainly an album to add to your collection. You'll be fooled into thinking it came out in 79'!

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Review: Pig – 'The Diamond Sinners EP'



PIG
'The Diamond Sinners EP'
METROPOLIS RECORDS


It has been an incredible year for the industrial genre so far, and with the Lord of LARD Raymond Watts now giving us his second rights with 'The Diamond Sinners' this certainly seems to be the year of the Pig. Where before Watts released an astonishing piece of work alongside Primitive Race, he is yet again keeping his connections strong with this somewhat solo release, featuring heavyweights Z. Marr (Combichrist), En Esch & Guenter Schulz to help along the way. That's not all though, on the remix front his disciples Chris Vrenna, Tim Skold & Lord of the Flies himself Mark Heal come on board to make an instant classic industrial EP.

It's title track plays like a passage of Faust, with Watts tempting us with an idea of a beautiful destruction. Its harmonies flow in the backdrop, creating an audible image of a welcoming inferno. It's follow up, a remix of the same track by Vrenna (as "The Tweaker") ups the beat for a club vibe, while a mist of 90's goth creeps across it's floor. This mix is certainly welcome at any alternative DJs setlist. Next up is a jaunty mix by Mark Heal. Although busy with his own work (as well as rumours of a Cubanate reunion album still on the cards) Heal has managed to tap into a style that has a fun vibe akin to acts like Apollo 440 and TKK. The rich thick synth resonates over samples of reverends talking smack about pork, and it's lyrics are (to put simply) very sexy! It will be interesting to see what the original version of 'Found in Filth' will be like when PIG's new album 'The Gospel' is released next month.
The final track is yet another mix of the EPs namesake, this time redux'd by Skold. Now becoming a solemn funeral march with the track's bell tolling across a hollow theme. The dark rock vibe is a fitting end to the damned running time, as a solitary piano serenades you to your final rest.
As a precursor for an album this is a perfect release. It's mysterious, dangerous and shows creativity in it's formula. It's only downside is the wanting of more! Perhaps an instrumental or a secret track to keep us guessing as to what 'The Gospel' will have in store for us.
The biggest question is though, in a world as fucked up as this, can Raymond Watts save our souls?

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Thursday, 4 August 2016

Review: Lord Of The Lost – 'Empyrean'



LORD OF THE LOST
'Empyrean'
OUT OF LINE


Lord Of The Lost return with their most ambitious sonic undertaking to date. The dystopian concept album 'Empyrean' sees the German quintent push their sound further than ever before as they mix gothic metal, industrial rock, prog, glam and electro into a barrage of hard riffs, catchy melodies, sing-a-long choruses and deceptively dance friendly rhythms. 'Empyrean' looks like it may very well be the album that see's Lord Of The Lost hit their stride and break out of the shadow of acts such as Deathstars and Gothminister.

The album hits hard and fast with opening numbers 'Miss Machine', 'Drag Me To Hell', and 'The Love Of God' each producing a golden mix of riffs, melodies, and big choruses. The next couple of tracks pull back from the bombastic metal elements a bit more for the more subtle and electronic led 'Raining Stars' and 'In Silence'.

The rockier elements begin to grow more throughout the likes of 'Black Oxide', and 'Interstellar Wars'. But it isn't until 'Doomsday Disco', 'Death Penalty', and 'No Gods, No War' do we fully return to that big bombastic sound. It is then left to the final three tracks 'The Interplay Of Life And Death', 'Utopya', and 'Where Is All The Love' to once again pull things back before wrapping it up.

This is one of those surprising albums where there isn't really a bad track. The band move between the heavier and more involved prog sounds with ease. They can go from hard and angry to subtle and melancholic without missing a beat. And the tracks are a testament to how far they have come over the last ten years.

The only real criticism I can level at this record is that in the way the album is laid out there is a bit of a tendency to bunch together similar songs, which is fine from a narrative point of view, however it does affect the momentum of the album in the middle and towards the end.

Overall though the song writing is the best the band have produced thus far. And the production of the album is absolutely spot-on with a dynamic mix that brings out the big sound the band need to achieve.

'Empyrean' is an ambitious album, but Lord Of The Lost have pulled it off. They have in fact produced the strongest album of their career to date, and one that is going to take some beating. It is evident though that the band are ready to step up and become one of the shining lights of the European industrial metal scene.  

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Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Review: Benjamin's Plague – 'Elated'


Dutch electro artist Benjamin's Plague, AKA Benjamin Schoone, returns in style with a new single in the form of 'Elated'. Featuring a collaboration with Shiv-r on the title track, as well as a formidable b-side in the form of 'Devour', 'Elated' looks set to make a big impression.

Known for his great use of melancholic melody and club-friendly construction, the single delivers on all fronts as the title track sees the vocalists trading blows as haunting piano frames harsh beats and bass in a slow and methodical assault on the ears. 'Devour' then picks up from the lead track quite nicely as it ramps up the club appeal with it's steady dance tempo, memorable leads and harsh ebm edge.

The single is completed by three remixes courtesy of Massive Ego, Simon Carter and Schoone's own project Noire Antidote. Massive Ego reconstruct the title track into a thumping club anthem with euphoric leads and a harder dance structure. Simon Carter takes on 'Devour' and infuses it with a mix of old school ebm and house. While Noire Antidote treat the title track to another makeover with a mix rooted in much darker territory to round of the track list with something a bit more understated.


The production on the single is great. It checks all the boxes for what a good club track should be. Even where the final remix goes into more experimental territory it maintains it's composure and stays grounded in dance territory.

'Elated' is a great single that should see all five tracks find favour with club-going audiences. It is a solid blend of intelligent melodies and strong dance beats that is perfect for the Summer. Hopefully more of the same will only be around the corner.  

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Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Review: Ewigkeit – 'Esc (2016)'



EWIGKEIT
'Esc (2016)'
DEATH TO MUSIC PRODUCTIONS


Ewigkeit may not be a name many people are familiar with, but for over 20 years this one man band from the mind of James Fogarty has been making some of the UK's most esoteric metal by far. Blending extreme metal with progressive rock, as well as heavy doses of ambient, symphonic styles (and any other styles that take his fancy), no two releases sound alike.

The last Ewigkeit album, 'Back To Beyond' was released in 2013 and was a spectacular return from his post Earache Records hiatus. Fast-forward to 2016 and with new material in the works Fogarty has given away for free a re-recorded version of the track 'Esc' from 2004's 'Radio Ixtlan' album.

Originally a hard and nasty blend of symphonic-tinged black metal and thrashing electronic drums, the track has been remixed with updated guitars and drums and the end result is a brilliant mix of crazy drum 'n' bass rhythms, symphonic black metal and a subtle prog elements.

The updated mix has brought out the best in the original track with a much more defined execution that is complimented by the new guitar and drums nicely. It's a crisper and clearer expression of the original's intent that reassures us that no matter what genres Fogarty uses in his pallet the new material will sound great.

This may just be a little something for the long-time fans, but for anyone who likes intelligent and experimental extreme music it is a freebie they should not pass-up. Ewigkeit may be an underground entity, but he is one with an already impressive legacy, and this should rightly have people salivating for more.

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Review: Twilight Fauna – 'Fire Of The Spirit'



TWILIGHT FAUNA
'Fire Of The Spirit'
SELF-RELEASED


Twilight Fauna is one of those projects that is incredibly evocative. Spanning multiple genres but with a firm grounding in neofolk and atmospheric black metal, each album presents a haunting portrait of the Appalachian landscape as filtered through the mind of composer and multi-instrumentalist Ravenwood.

Switching between haunting acoustic instruments and low-fi, primitive black metal guitars and drums the album is intense in it's atmospheres. On the one hand serene and melancholic, while on the other insatiable and demonic. It is a formula that Ravenwood has been refining over the past few Twilight Fauna albums and it continues to pay off with his sprawling and progressive song construction tying the two halves of his sound together with ease.

Songs such as 'Walking With The Ghost', 'A Green Moth In The Mist', 'Anointing Oil', and 'Tongues Of Knowledge' weigh in with long-run times and perfectly encapsulate the coming together of the sounds as they meander through each. While the likes of 'Laying Out The Fleece' and 'A Glass Dalia' are shorter and as a result just favour the folk instruments which breaks up the track listing quite nicely and shifts the emphasis from the heavier elements.

Despite the many low-fi elements in the album, the mix is rather good. Again showing a progression from the last album the balance between melodic and harsh is a bit slicker this time round. As always atmosphere is king, but the subtlety at work in places shows the rough edges smoothing out slightly.

This is another beautiful album from Ravenwood. A great blend of melody and malady that pushes both folk and black metal into mutually beneficial directions. It's great to see this project grow in skill and scope and hopefully it will continue to do so for a long time to come.  

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Review: Asylum Sisters – 'A Faith Called You'



ASYLUM SISTERS
'A Faith Called You'
BLIND MICE PRODUCTIONS


Taking in genres such as industrial, witch house and even metal, Australia's Asylum Sisters are a dazzlingly psychedelic blend of harsh and melodic sounds. The group's sophomore offering 'A Faith Called You' is a tantalising and enthralling listening experience that twists and turns unexpectedly while keeping an undeniably addictive core blend of melodic dance electronics.

The band's sonic formula is reminiscent of acts such as The Faint and Psy'Aviah at their most free-form and experimental which is particularly evident on tracks such as 'Chaos', 'Push', and 'Fire'. Yet the likes of 'Your Mind', 'Prophecy, 'Sequel', and 'Safest Space II' make stronger use of guitars and more traditional melodic elements and even begin to border on prog rock territory.

Despite glitchy stuttering sounds and rhythms, as well as experimental vocal styles, the album is firmly rooted in the melodic thanks to the mix, which keeps the dance beats high and the guitars and leads prominent throughout.

'A Faith Called You' is a really solid album that will hopefully make a lot of people take notice. The reckless abandon for not only genre convention but song-structure makes this exciting from start to finish as your not sure what they will do next. However it is grounded in reality and while it challenges, it doesn't set out to alienate the listener, and makes up for it's experimental side with some very addictive song-writing. Definitely a band to watch going forward.  

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